Fourth Sunday of Easter, Cycle C
Acts 13, 14.43-52; Ps 100, 1-2.3.5.; Rev 7, 9.14-17; Jn 10, 27-30.
Recognizing the Shepherd's voice
Years ago a Broadway play, called “The Royal Hunt of the Sun”, dealt with Spain’s conquest of Peru. In one scene a Spaniard gives an Incan leader a Bible, saying that it is God’s word. Filled with curiosity, the leader raises the Bible to his ear and listens attentively. When he hears nothing, he slams the Bible to the ground, feeling that he has been made the butt of a joke.
The sheep listen to and recognize the voice of their shepherd and that is why they continue to follow him rather than another. It is important for us also to recognize the voice of Jesus as it comes to us in our daily life. And, in our Christian life, the voice of Christ can take many forms. Most of the time, it is in the voices of those people who come into our daily lives. If we do not recognize Christ in the voices we hear, we are likely to get lost and, perhaps, many do lose their way. They do not know where their Shepherd is - or perhaps they do not have shepherds. It is thus necessary to ask myself: “Who is my shepherd? How do I listen to the Word of God?” It is easy for us to have a "supermarket" mentality towards society and towards the Church. We expect our governments to provide all kinds of services without our having to pay our share in having those services provided. We often talk about an entity called "the Church" which is supposed to provide: priests, sisters, churches, schools and the religious, educational, spiritual, sacramental and social services we want and need. But we need to remember that that "Church" is not something "out there"; it is you and me. It is we and only we who, by pitching in together, can provide the service personnel and the operations, the 'hardware' and 'software' by which our Church community can continue to function. And –what is more important- we have to be aware that church is not the supermarket or enterprise but we, the church, are the flock and we have to listen to the voice of our divine Shepherd.
We live in a world where, on the one hand, we have governments which tend to take charge of many social needs, but do not always do a very good job where those in greatest need are concerned. On the other hand, we also live in a highly competitive society which drives home the message that one has to devote all one's energies in taking care of oneself and one's family. If we take such a situation for granted as being the "normal" state of affairs, it will not be easy for us to see what active role there is for us to play. Even where our Christian faith is concerned it is easy for us to adopt a passive attitude - "pray, pay and obey". We can see our faith as expecting conformity in certain fringe areas of our life such as attending Mass once a week. But even that attendance can be a very passive experience - we endure the homily, we let the priest "say" the Mass for us and the choir sing for us and a commentator to pray for us. We may arrive late and leave early. Is that how I live my Christian vocation, my participation within Christ’s flock?
And this brings us to Good Shepherd Sunday, which is also Vocations Sunday. In particular we are asked to pray that more people will consider whether they are being called to join the ranks of priest-shepherds or the dedicated life of brothers and sisters. Without these people, without those who will dedicate themselves totally to the service of God and God’s flock, we can be lost like sheep without a shepherd.